The central plain of Transylvania is know as Câmpia Transilvaniei ("plains of Transylvania") by the Romanians, and Mezőség ("area of fields") by Hungarians. The peasant population of this region is an ethnic mix of Hungarians, Romanians and Gypsies, and unusually for Transylvania, most of the villages are ethnically mixed . The lands came under various feudal estates with the peasants being bound to the feudal lords. This resulted, in the past to a more fluid situation with the peasants being moved between villages and new villages being founded.
The visual impression given from the term "plain" is not true to the real geography. Villages are nestled within rolling hills which follow a number of rivers that drain into the surrounding Mureş and Someş rivers. Densely populated villages with arable farming are separated by empty pasture land and woods.
A century ago the song and music collected by Bela Batók was part of most villagers lives, and was subject to slower changes. With improved communications repertoire song and music listened to has changed rapidly as lives have changed and the desired music at weddings has moved on.
The village music was gradually taken over by the gypsy professional musicians who were formally employed by the feudal land owners. This led to the introduction of the central European fashion of the string ensemble which continued to develop the Transylvanian music repertoire into the 20th century. There is less demand for these groups now in the villages, so there are fewer village tarafs. Many of these have been recorded by Hungarian and Romanian music labels playing a mixture of a few old dances with many more recently introduced popular dances.
The detailed dance summary is on separate page due to the variety and extent of dances found in this region.
There are a few examples of old dances, but the majority of popular dances belong to the relatively recent fashions of the turning dance, the lad's dance and the Csárdás. This has led to much of the music and dance being shared between all the ethnic groups and cannot be attributed to a single nationality. It is most likely the variants of these dances developed in mixed ethnicity villages and have always been danced by everyone. There are however some older dances that belong predominantly to one ethnicity, suggesting remnants of an older dance strata dating to before the current ethnic mixing, or representing differing preferences for retention of dance types.
The majority of the villages are mixed populations or predominantly Romanian, a few villages are strongly Hungarian. Consequently the Hungarian ethnographies are generally attributed to a particular village, whereas the Romanian are attributed to a wider region.
The Romanians have maintained a few examples of men's group dances called Româneşte în botă which are usually performed in unison in a circle with each dancer holding a stick. These are probably remnants of ritual dances related to the Căluşer and Căluş.
Romanians and Hungarians both share a range of lad's dances known as Legényes (Hungarian) or Feciorească (Romanian) which have slow and fast types. The Hungarian variants are known as Ritka magyar and Sűrű magyar, and when danced by Romanians as Ungureşte rar and Ungureşte des. The Romanian slow Feciorească variants are known as Feciorească rară, De ponturi, Rara, De ponturi Româneşte, and the slow Feciorească variants are known as Feciorească deasă, De ponturi bătrâneşte.
The 19th century Hungarian Verbunk (in Romanian: Bărbunc) has entered villages dance repertoire, but often using combinations of the Lad's dance motifs.
During the 20th century the Târnăveanca (Hugnarian: Korcsos) was intorduced into many village repertoires, either as a men's dance or using the melodies for an existing couple dance.
The Romanian dance cycle includes the Putată (De-a lungu, Româneşte, De început, Româneşte depreumblat) processional walking dance which is danced to asymmetric, uneven, rhythm. This dance is generally thought to originate from an early courtly dance which spread throughout Scandinavia, central and eastern Europe. Within Câmpia Transilvaniei the Hungarian version of this dance form is only found in the Hungarian village of Sic (Szék). In wider Transylvania it is also danced by the Hungarians in the Gyimes region.
The turning dance (Romanian: învârtita, Hungarian: Forgatós) is the best known of this region's couple dances. This consists of turning as a couple, resting steps and figures involving women's pirouettes guided by the man. Since we have been visiting Romania this dance has continued to spread, now beyond Transylvania into Maramureş and Moldavia! This turning dance has slow variants, învârtita rară, De doi paşi and fast variants, Bătută (Romanian) Szökős (Hungarian).
The Romanian asymmetric rhythm învârtita, is found predominantly in southern Transylvania, but is also found in Câmpia Transilvaniei solely with Romanians.
The older turning dance has been partially displaced by the Csárdás. The slow Lassú csárdás (Romanian: Leneşa) is also called Cigánytánc or Tigăneşte rar, and the fast Sűrű Csárdás. The Romanian Hăţegana (Hăţeg, Hăţegul) found throughout southern and central Transylvania takes its name from the town in Hunedoara county. The central Transylvania variant is equivalent to the Sűrű csárdás.
The Hungarians in Suatu (Magyarszovát) and Sic (Szék) have a version of the turning dance for two couples in a small circle known as Negyes ("foursomes"). There are no other small circle dances with the number of dances set as two couples, but related dances may be the Romanian învârtita for one man and two women, învârtita for girls, the women's circle dances Jiana and Jieneasca , and the Kalotaszeg girls dance.
The typical gypsy taraf from the last century consists of one or two violins, contra (flat bridged violin tuned to g-d'-a to enable playing chords) and bass. Currently the clarinet, saxophone and accordion have replaced the former string group, with even more recent additions of electric keyboard and bass. This progression is fuelled by the wishes of their customers, most often the village wedding events.
The melody line often does not conform to modern European tempered scales and is richly embellished using vibratos, lower and upper mordents, and turns.
Harmonies are not well developed using only the major triads of the key. Added to this are dominant sevenths, but these are not part of a harmony progressions, and more recently minor harmonies have been introduced. The bass follows a simple version of the melody and does not follow the harmony line of the contra. Some bands have incorporated playing in 3rds from the fashion of town ensembles.
Suciu, V. (2003) Cojocna - Marturii Etnografice de pe Plaiuri Somesene, Editura Limes.
Taraful din Suata (Magyarszovát) - Electrecord EPE2690
Jocuri populare Româneşti - Jocuri din Mureş Electrecord ST-EPE 01681
Ansamblul folcloric Transylvania din Târgu Mureş - Electrecord ST-EPE 03727
Taraful Soporul de Câmpie - Electrecord ST-EPE 03228
The Traditional Folk Music Band - Transylvania, the plain - Electrecord EPE 02412
Szék - original village music - FONO FA-008
Magyarszovát - original village music - FONO 015
Nagysármás - original village music - FONO 018
Magyarpalatka - original village music - FONO 003
Budatelke - orignial village music - FONO 002
Romanian and Hungarian Music from Central Transylvania - Ethnophonie CD005
Music from the region of Gherla- Ethnophonie C-010
Autentikus Nepzene DMR-23a
Eszak-Mezőségi Magyar Nepzene, Válaszút - Kallos Archivum 7
Mezőségi Magyar-Roman Nepzene, Bonchida - Kallos Archivum 8
Mezőségi Magyar Nepzene, Magyarszovat - Kallos Archivum 11
Magyarpalatka - Syncoop 5733 CD152
Okros, Bonchida - ABT005